Is Simple Self-Care an Obstacle to Feeling More Fulfilled?
I will boldly say that after many years of self-reflection and training to be a therapist, I have mastered the art and mindset of simple self-care. Notice that I said “simple self-care”. I give myself permission to sleep in, treat myself to takeout after a long week, or turn down a social invite if I am feeling too drained. I fully believe in the importance of investing in yourself so that you can do your best work and live your best life. Despite these self-care practices, recently I have been sitting with this feeling that something was missing, but I couldn’t figure out what. Why was I feeling empty and disconnected from myself? Then the answer hit me a few weeks ago when I returned to my yoga and meditation practice.
As I instinctually moved through the poses and focused inward, I felt that sense of deep inner connection that I had been missing - the feeling you get when you are engaged with a practice that you love and can get lost in. You will not get this feeling by doing simple self-care such as taking a bath or buying yourself a smoothie, but by deeply immersing yourself in more meaningful self-care that feeds your soul. Activities such as:
- Creating or viewing art
- Engaging in movement or dance
- Playing or listening to music
- Tending to your spiritual practice
- Spending quality time with animals
- Being in nature
Self-care has become a buzzword as of lately, which has its pros and cons. On the positive side, at a societal level we are becoming more aware of the need to take care of ourselves on a consistent basis. On the other hand, we may be only implementing simple self-care - activities that are a quick fix or easily accessible amidst a busy schedule. As a result, we are depriving ourselves of the fulfillment of truly slowing down and prioritizing ourselves, of taking time to immerse in past times that are important to us yet might often feel inaccessible due to our many responsibilities.
As Highly Sensitive Therapists, moving beyond simple self-care to deeply nourish ourselves is vital to being able to sustain the type of work we do, to be able to emotionally support others on a daily basis. Being highly perceptive and empathetic takes a considerable amount of energy that we need to replenish or we run the risk of burnout. Not only that, but we can most effectively access our Sensitive Strengths (perception, empathy, intuition, presence, etc) when we are grounded and connected to ourselves. Otherwise, we are too exhausted and overwhelmed to show up personally and professionally.
What’s Getting in the Way of Meaningful Self-Care?
Just like me, you may be practicing simple self-care but forgetting or unable to carve out time to deeply nourish yourself with meaningful self-care. I would encourage you to reflect upon the questions below to help you discover what’s getting in the way of taking care of yourself at a deeper level:
- When you have free time, how do you typically spend it?
- How would you prefer to spend your free time? What’s getting in the way?
- What activities really light you up and help you feel connected to yourself?
- What responsibilities can you set aside or delegate to create more time for yourself?
Often we are too overstimulated or tired to truly enjoy the free time that we do have or we have overcommitted ourselves to the point of having no time left to refuel. As Highly Sensitive People (and Therapists), we not only need time to decompress EVERY DAY, we also need to regularly engage in meaningful activities and connections to feel satisfied. Simple self-care just doesn’t cut it for us, we need depth!
What are the Benefits of Meaningful Self-Care?
As you begin to spend more time connecting inward, you may notice:
- More clarity to make decisions
- Feeling inspired to work on creative projects
- Increased energy and mental focus
- Heightened self-acceptance
- More at ease physically and emotionally
We all know the importance of self-care but as Highly Sensitive Therapists, we need to take that self-care practice to the next level to deeply nourish ourselves and prevent burnout. When we take time to enjoy more meaningful forms of self-care such as immersing in our creative process or getting lost in a book, we not only reconnect with ourselves but have access to our gifts of perception and empathy - the qualities that allow us to be our best therapist selves.